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National Election Committee changes rules before general election

Photo: index.hu/Attila Nagy

The Fidesz-controlled National Election Committee (NVB) has reportedly modified election rules in a manner that makes it more difficult for opposition parties to engage in the joint fielding of candidates without sacrificing their own party lists.

According to Nyugat.hu, a national party list must be scrapped if the party fails to run candidates in 27 electoral districts, and/or if the 27 candidates do not meet the minimum territorial distribution requirement. In other words, for the party list to be considered valid, all parties must run candidates in at least 27 electoral districts across nine counties and Budapest.

Nyugat.hu reports that the NVB will likely release these new guidelines in writing when it next convenes.

Such guidelines would definitely throw a wrench in the opposition’s attempt to coordinate the joint fielding of candidates — a strategy independent MP Zoltán Kész refers to as “The Highlander Plan” (“There can only be one”). The idea here is that the best way to mount a strong challenge to Fidesz in individual electoral districts is to make sure that only one candidate runs against the Fidesz nominee. This idea holds that only the strongest opposition candidate should take part in the race for that seat. There have been numerous signs that opposition parties and independent candidates have been working in this direction for the national election on April 8.

According to Nyugat.hu, the NVB’s new directive would therefore reduce the likelihood of something like “The Highlander Plan” actually working. On a larger scale, if one (or more) party withdraws its candidate in favor of a more likely winner, it can easily lose its own party list, thereby blocking itself from entering parliament.

After Fidesz’s landslide victory in 2010, the party immediately got to work crafting a new election law. Critics argue that one of the most egregious electoral reforms undertaken by Fidesz was doing away with the two-round elections in favor of a first-past-the-post system. One of the democratic benefits of the two-round election system was that it compelled parties to compromise and make deals if election results were close.

In fact, it was the two-round election that put Fidesz in power after the 1998 election, thanks to the help of József Torgyán’s Smallholders’ Party. This is something Fidesz did away with in its unilaterally adopted election law. The NVB’s new directive would make it even riskier for opposition parties to coordinate in this much more hostile electoral environment.

The imminent directive is a sign of how opposition election consensus-building has become a zero sum game that can potentially end a political party’s shot at entering parliament.

Benjamin Novak :